Long to Reign Over Us

The recent Olympic Games have been a magnificent spectacle and a huge success for British Sport. I tried to watch the opening ceremony live. They were doing this dramatic presentation of the history of Brazil and decided to go back to the beginning – I mean the very beginning. As amoeba emerged from the primordial soup and crossed the arena, I’m afraid I lost the will to live – or at least the will to watch – and went to bed. However, I did watch the highlights the following day, and actually found the whole thing very moving – even spiritual. I’ve been trying to work out why. I think it’s because the idea of a world united in a common cause resonates with a desire God has put deep in our hearts.
This is the vision of the Apostle John:
After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no-one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. …And they cried out in a loud voice:Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb. (Revelation 7:9-10)
Ultimately all peoples will be united in worship. And every nation, tribe, people and language will bring their unique culture into the mix.
I remember watching a medal ceremony at the rowing venue in Rio, where Britain was being presented with another gold medal. The camera showed the winner with his medal on the podium, and the union flag was raised as the national anthem was being played. And just as the words “long to reign over us” were being sung, there was a shot of the statue of Christ the Redeemer in the background, which brought to my mind the eternal reign of the King of kings who watches over us in love. And the words of the hymn came to mind:
Jesus shall reign where’er the sun

Does his successive journeys run;

His kingdom stretch from shore to shore,

Till moons shall wax and wane no more.

However, Jesus does not impose his reign on the earth. The one who reigns and unites the world in worship according to John’s vision is also the Lamb. Jesus never imposed himself on anyone but became the servant of all. He loved his enemies and prayed for their forgiveness. He gave his life to set us free. If Christianity becomes intolerant and coercive, it ceases to be the Way of Jesus. Christianity isn’t about dominating the world; it’s about serving the world in Jesus’ name, in the hope that the world will freely accept him. In the words of another great hymn:

O that mankind might taste and see
The riches of His grace!
The arms of love that compass me
Would all the world embrace.
As well as remembering a great Olympics, the image of Christ the Redeemer offering his embrace to the whole world will remain with me.
God bless,
Rev. James